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Increasing Bean Productivity and Household Food Security in Stressful Environments in Mozambique Through Use of Phosphorus-Efficient Seeds by Farm Households, McKnight Foundation

Research Partners:

Dr. Magalhaes Miguel, IIAM, Mozambique (project leader)

Soares Xerinda,  IIAM, Mozambique

Celestina Jochua,  IIAM, Mozambique

Dr. Jill Findeis, U Missouri, USA

Dr. Juan Carlos Rosas, Zamorano University, Honduras

Dr. Jonathan Lynch, Penn State, USA

Funding Source: McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program

1. Statement of the problem or opportunity

Phosphorus-efficient common bean and soybean are extremely useful in low fertility soils of Mozambique. Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) is among the most important crops in Latin America and Southern Africa. In these regions, common bean has nutritional, ecological and economic values. Common bean is a principal source of protein and micronutrients, since the majority of the rural population cannot afford to get protein from animal sources; beans also provide a key protein source in food supplements given to populations weakened by disease. Common bean also plays an important role in many agronomic systems, helping to improve soil fertility mainly through incorporation of nitrogen from the atmosphere in the biological nitrogen fixation process, larger leaf area index (% of soil surface covered by vegetation in cultivated fields) enabling soil conservation by reduced erosion, in fields planted by phosphorus efficient genotypes (Henry et al., 2008). Common bean has economic value because in most production systems of small-scale farmers in southern Africa, it can serve as a cash crop with better market values compared to cereals (i.e. maize, sorghum) and cassava. Farm households usually reserve part of their bean production to sell in local markets and can use the income to pay for such basic needs as education of children, health care including medicine, and household consumption goods. Soybeans also have market value, being increasingly used to feed chickens. Therefore, increased bean production has a direct impact on a) population’s nutritional status, b) soil nutrient management, and c) household welfare of rural farm households.

To bring the technologies developed during the previous phase to farm households in their communities, the next phase of the project will focus on the following activities: 1) continued research in plant breeding and plant physiology (root traits) leading to the development of P-efficient common bean and soybean materials preferred by farm households; 2) development of seed systems to ensure the availability of the seeds of P-efficient materials in major bean production regions of Mozambique; 3) continued socio-economic assessment of farm household preferences as well as the adoption/diffusion of the new technologies; and 4) degree and non-degree training as a continued IIAM effort for capacity building.

During the implementation of the first phase, significant progress has been made leading to the achievement of project goals, which can be highlighted as evaluation and development of P-efficient common bean and soybean genotypes adapted to local conditions; completion of the baseline socio-economic assessment of bean production among farm households (both men and women) in 8 villages in central and northern Mozambique; completion of degree training of three PhD host country scientists by mid-2010 and training of IIAM socio-economic staff in network and GIS analysis; improvement of infrastructure and facilities at the IIAM research station at Sussundenga, including the establishment of a plant nutrition lab with basic equipment at Sussundenga.

This initial effort, made possible through the McKnight Foundation’s CCRP in collaboration with other related projects recently funded by USAID-CRSP and Generation Challenge Program (GCP), can only be capitalized if the outcome of developed technologies can reach the hands of the ultimate beneficiaries– the farmers and farm households, rural communities more generally, and bean consumers. For the next phase of McKnight Foundation funding, we propose to bridge the existing gap between technology development and bringing and promoting these technologies to farm households for widespread adoption and diffusion.

Therefore, in the next phase, a significant effort will be devoted to the dissemination of the technologies developed during the previous phase to farm households and their communities, through a) seed multiplication of P-efficient materials, and b) seed promotion and dissemination of production technologies (such as intercropping), involving but not limited to NGOs (Word Vision, CLUSA, CARE, AfriCARE) working in the region. Seed promotion and dissemination will be carried out using such approaches as participatory variety selection, demonstration plots and creation of community-based seed production systems, distribution of small packets of new seed, and community promotion campaigns. In addition, a link will be established between our project and the existing CCRP project for seed systems, operating in the region.

The long-term view of this effort is to empower farmers and their households to be self-sufficient in P-efficient seeds, with P-efficient seeds being readily available within communities through the existence of seed production and seed distribution channels available locally. The goal is to help farm households have the means to participate in local markets, i.e., earn enough income to purchase seed. For households unable to participate in markets, the goal is to provide P-efficient seeds through NGOs or through alternative distribution systems that empower the poorest farm households to take those steps needed to benefit from bean production.

2. Project objectives

The overall goal of the project is to improve food security and agro-ecosystems sustainability among bean-producing farmers in Mozambique through increased production and productivity of common bean and soybean in low-P soils.

The specific objectives are:

Research: conduct applied research in a) plant breeding, b) root physiology, c) agro-ecology and d) socio-economics to identify, select and develop P-efficient bean materials of various market classes according to farm household preferences; develop agro-ecologically sustainable farming systems; conduct socio-economic research to assess new seed acceptability by local farm households and consumers; develop approaches to seed dissemination that have the potential to rapidly and effectively result in widespread adoption and diffusion of new seed within local communities; and build bean and soybean supply chain access across rural communities.

Seed system and technology transfer: Seeds of identified and well-adapted P-efficient bean genotypes will be multiplied, promoted and made available to farm households across the spectrum of income classes within rural communities.

Training: Degree training at Penn State with a possible matching commitment from university funds in order to train two students from IIAM. In addition, short-term training of IIAM staff/technicians in Honduras, possible English training prior to Penn State degree training, as well as field days and training sessions involving the broad spectrum of rural households that could benefit from bean and soybean production will occur.